Rib sprains are a type of soft tissue injury that can occur when the muscles and ligaments around the ribs are stretched or torn. Although rib sprains are relatively uncommon, they can be very painful and debilitating. In this post, we’ll discuss what causes rib sprains, their symptoms, and how you can go about treating them. We’ll also provide some prevention tips to help keep you safe. Read on for more information.
Dr. James Escaloni, had a rib sprain one weekend. He was doing his usual exercise routine to keep himself healthy. But, as always does, he went just a little bit too much and injured his ribs. His injuries now somehow came out to be a benefit because he learned about how to take care of them.
Dr. Danesh as well couldn’t believe it when he had his rib sprain. According to him, it’s one of those injuries you think will never happen to you, but then suddenly find yourself experiencing pain and discomfort. And they can happen in the front and the back.
The rib cage is like an anchor, strategically positioned in the front and back. They are similar to a big lever. If they’re stable they provide a great support system for your spine. But the reality is, if one end comes a little bit loose or undone, then it becomes a mobile lever and puts a tremendous amount of stress on the other side of the fence. You can feel pain every single time you take a breath.
Fun fact: You are feeling the rib and if it’s hurt at least 15,000 – 22,000 times a day on average. Fascinating, right?
Our ribs are held in place by two forms of support structures.
A cartilaginous connector
The front end is a cartilaginous connector between your rib and your sternum.
Cartilage is a squishy structure that has support but is flexible. You will feel the cartilage in your nose and your ears. You’ve got it elsewhere in the body too. What cushions or lubricates bone-to-bone connections is cartilage.
Cartilage is mainly a protein that contains a lot of water. This makes it squishy and bouncy. It helps protect organs inside the ribcage. Cartilage is more flexible and lenient than hard bone. We need this for our chest so it can expand and contract when we breathe, or if we take a small impact, the cartilage will take some of the force and prevent our ribs from breaking.
The second structure that holds things in place is a bunch of ligaments. Most of them are placed in the backside, connecting the bone around the spine to the ribs. We call it the costovertebral junction. The costovertebral junction similarly, has cartilage as well as ligaments around it.
Ligaments are a major source of pain because they create stability where there could be a lot of motion in the body. The body needs a good alarm system to know if the ligaments are injured. This is important because the ligaments can have a big effect on how the body moves and reacts.
How can a rib sprain happen?
Have you or someone you know ever been in a car wreck before? It’s a scary experience, for sure. But have you ever stopped to think about what happens to your body when you’re in one? Most people don’t, and that’s understandable. After all, who wants to think about something like that when they’re just trying to get through the experience?
But it’s important to know what happens during a car accident, especially if you’ve been in one before. For example, did you know the seat belt can cause some pretty serious injuries? It’s because when you’re wearing a seat belt, it keeps your body still while the rest of you is moving. And that can cause some serious damage, especially to your ribs. Then, you may feel like an intense pain went straight through you, almost making it difficult to breathe. You’re not sure what the matter is but one thing’s for certain-your rib might be hurting!
You see, when you’re in an accident and your body is jerked around, the rib takes the sheer and can end up getting injured. You might not feel the pain right away – in fact, it often takes a few hours or even days for the pain to show up. But when it does, it can be pretty intense. You might find it hard to breathe, and nobody will be able to quite figure out what’s wrong with you.
But now you know – it’s most likely your rib that’s injured. The rib takes that sheer and you’re hurt in the front, side, or back.
Keep your Ribs Healthy
There are breathing exercises. Some muscles line between each rib and muscles that help you breathe in and out. We think about the diaphragm as our main breathing muscle. But we also have other muscles in our chest and back that can help us breathe. If you have an injured rib, these muscles can help to stabilize it until it heals. Exercising these muscles will also get the ligaments and cartilage stronger around them.
There’s a neat study that just came out where people who had CoViD and had been doing breathing exercises showed improvements not only in their breathing but also in their blood pressure and heart rate. They then looked at how this worked in healthy individuals and found it dropped about 10 points on the systolic scale (the higher number). This is significant because medications only lower blood pressure by around 7-8%.
Therefore, breathing exercises are a nice complement to aerobic exercises because they can help improve your blood pressure and improve lung and chest wall health.
Try this on your next warm-up
Now let’s say your blood pressure’s okay, but you just don’t want to feel like there is a searing pain across your chest with movement, what do you do? Well, one is doing a warm-up is a good idea. And two, these deeper breathing exercises can take you to a higher level.
It’s as easy as rotating your hips slowly as you take a deep breath through your nose and blow forcefully through pursed lips. You can feel all the intercostal muscles helping to contract your chest wall and as you take a deep breath in through your nose expanding it.
Remember, we don’t just always do activities of daily living facing front. We constantly move up and down, side to side. We also sometimes need our arms to be above our head because it’s going to stretch out in some different ways.
And if the activity you’re about to do requires you to be twisting, bending, or putting your arms above your head, you’re going to need to do something to expose the ribs to movement. This way it’s prepped for whatever you’re about to do.
That’s a lot of information to take in, but we wanted to make sure you had all the facts before moving on. Now that you know what a rib sprain is and some of the common causes, it’s important to be able to identify the symptoms so you can get treatment as soon as possible. If you have any questions or want more information about anything we’ve discussed here, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We would be happy to schedule a discovery call with you and answer any questions you may have. Thanks for reading!
If you’re experiencing discomforting pains in your ribcage area and would like help getting to the bottom of it, we’d be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.